Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Cabinet mission bridges life at border


Mission goal takes Cabinet to border school

In El Paso, Texas, teenagers talk with Frankye Johnson (seated upper right), OKC-South District superintendent, while waiting for lunch in the school cafeteria at the Lydia Patterson Institute. Members of the Oklahoma Conference Extended Cabinet and spouses served there recently on a one-week mission. They painted, cooked, collected trash, even filled potholes in an asphalt soccer field. Bishop Hayes strung a new net for the soccer team. Most of all, the Oklahomans connected with new friends at the school that receives Apportionment support.

By Joseph Harris, Director of Communications

As part of preparations for the 2013 Annual Conference, with its theme of "Mission Possible," Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. wanted the Conference leadership to take part in a mission immersion experience beyond Oklahoma’s borders.

So Bishop Hayes, the Extended Cabinet, and their spouses made a commitment to serve a week in mission at Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI) in El Paso, Texas. From March 11 through 15, they volunteered for various tasks and learned about the Kingdom-work by this ministry of the UM South Central Jurisdiction. Each missioner encountered enthusiastic students and committed staff and faculty

Lydia Patterson Institute, at the Mexico/U.S. border, prepares underprivileged students for academic and professional success by equipping them socially, physically, spiritually, and intellectually to make a difference in their families and communities, and in the life of two nations. Across 100 years, LPI graduates have become university presidents, prominent members of the business community, professors, embassy workers, and research scientists at universities including Johns Hopkins. Currently 70 percent of students enrolled at LPI are from Juarez, Mexico.

The Oklahomans also learned that:

  • 98 percent of LPI students go to college, compared to 51 percent of all students in El Paso County;

  • 80 percent receive scholarships upon graduation; and

  • 400 students, in grades nine through 12, are educated in a rigorous academic environment while being nurtured in Christian values.

The school’s physical plant was constructed in 1964 and has existed "as built" since that time. That was the focus for the mission by the 25 members of the Oklahoma Conference group. They helped repair and paint the current facility as the school is preparing a four-phase renovation campaign, to construct state-of-the-art science facilities, a new chapel, and new classrooms.

Bishop Hayes remarked that this is a place where Oklahomans can make a difference for both current and future students, as the school refurbishes for its next 100 years.

Those on the work team know the Oklahoma Conference connection with LPI extends over many years, both financially and personally. Former Oklahoma Bishop Bruce Blake and his wife, Karen, served on the LPI Board of Trustees. David Burris, Woodward District superintendent, was a board member for 16 years. Oklahoma’s coordinator for Hispanic/Latino Ministry and an associate director of the Office of Mission, Carlos Ramirez, now serves on the board.

Approximately 60 LPI students have attended Oklahoma City University. And Oklahomans regularly have heard from LPI President Socorro Brito de Anda at Annual Conference.

Clockwise: Rosilyn Warren substitutes as a math teacher. Superintendents George Warren of Bartlesville District, Darrell Cates of McAlester District, and Bishop Hayes mix concrete to repair the school soccer playground. Bishop Hayes poses with Martha and David Milhouse.

Treasurer Brian Bakeman, left, and Dan Pulver, OKC-North District superintendent, collect trash.

Photos by Joseph Harris

With every church contributing funds to LPI through the Jurisdictional Apportionment, Oklahoma has been invested in the mission of this school for some time.

Yet another connection surprised the Oklahomans when they arrived at the El Paso school. Two other volunteers concurrently working at LPI had Oklahoma ties. David and Martha Milhouse, from Franklin, Ind., were helping the school prepare for a trustees meeting.

David is the son of the late Bishop Paul Milhouse, who was Oklahoma’s episcopal leader from 1968 to 1980.

David and Martha are very committed to LPI, volunteering at the school twice a year. Their relationship with the school began when they chose to sponsor a student, providing a full scholarship.

(LPI’s Full Scholarship Plus program covers tuition, registration, bridge tolls and bus fares, passport, uniforms, school supplies, even personal needs. Students who receive this scholarship work the equivalent of two hours for every school day. Students on a half-scholarship work one hour.).

As David and Martha built a friendship with the student they were sponsoring, they learned she initially did not want to attend the school. Her mother had insisted that she go, particularly because of the scholarship. If the girl had not enrolled at LPI, David said, she likely would have dropped out of public school in Juarez, as did many of her friends.

But that is not how her story unfolded. The student did graduate from Lydia Patterson Institute and went on to attend Wiley College, where she is on track to graduate this spring. Bishop Hayes’ father was a past president of Wiley College.

From that first experience, David and Martha resolved not only to volunteer at LPI each year but also to scholarship a student every year. They currently sponsor Dennisse Pena, a freshman at the high school. She plans after graduation to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

The Milhouses said it was a joy to see volunteers from among the leadership of the Oklahoma Conference. During 47 years of marriage, their work at LPI is among their most enriching experiences, they concurred. And they were moved to know that David’s dad led an annual conference that continues to be committed to mission at Lydia Patterson Institute, in both word and deed.

The Extended Cabinet team also got to connect with students. A bridge between Mexico and the United States will remain especially memorable. Students began forming a line there, as early as 5:30 a.m., to go through border checkpoints and walk to school. The Oklahomans waited at the bridge and then walked with the students. During those walks, the adults and students got to speak personally, and the young people’s commitment to their education and love for LPI was clearly visible.

Some of the group read to students studying English as a Second Language. Some helped in math classes. All attended chapel services with the students. And each morning, as the group was led in a devotional by David Burris, Woodward District superintendent, they could hear a student reading Scripture and praying over the school intercom system.

Lawton District Superintendent Chris Tiger walks with a student to Lydia Patterson
school in El Paso, Texas. Oklahomans met students from Mexico at the border bridge.


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